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Fat Magnets, Chitosan, and Soap

I recently chanced upon a web ad for chitosan, claimed to be a "Fat Magnet", which would let one eat fatty foods and lose weight. Looked like another magic pill. So I turned to my handy Google.Com search engine for information.

Chitosan is processed from chitin, mostly obtained from crushed shellfish shells, crab shells, and similar. Chitosan is a polymer with structure similar to cellulose. It has applications in industry, such as to hold catalysts.

The national governments of both Britain and the USA have taken legal actions against makers and sellers of chitosan
as a diet supplement, because claims that fat absorption can be blocked by ingesting chitosan have been tested and proven false. Yet many internet sites are still selling this snake-oil medicine. I wonder why that is. Don't the good guys win and make the bad guys go away?

One of the diet sales sites told me that chitosan is an extract of crushed shellfish shells, and can ionically attract "negatively charged fat like a magnet". For starters, the mechanism of magnets does not involve ions or charge attraction.

An example does come to mind in which ions interact with fats, namely the making and use of soaps.

Again, let's turn to the handy Google.Com search engine.

Soap was discovered at least four thousand years ago, and many times in many places since then. Soap was not always used to clean, sometimes the soft form being used to treat open wounds, or as a hair dressing, for two examples. One way for soap to form is for fat drippings from a cooking fire to combine with water and the alkali existing in wood ashes. This alkali is hydroxide of sodium and potassium.
One legend says that rain water falling on fire altars used for animal sacrifice to gods caused soap to form and flow into streams that were then discovered to be good for cleaning clothes.

A molecule of soap consists of a molecule of fatty acid (carbon and hydrogen atoms) chemically combined with an atom of sodium or potassium, with some other atoms, such as oxygen, tied in. The chemical process involves the exchange of electrons among the parts, said parts being identifiable as positive and negative ions. Soft fats tend to make softer soaps than solid fats. Potassium makes softer soaps than sodium.

Soap helps in cleaning because it helps fat to emulsify (or soponify or saponify) in water, that is the fat molecules become distributed in water containing soap. The alkali end of the soap molecule loves water, and the fat end is attracted to fat. If the fats to be removed start out in solid form, the water can be heated.

Many recipes can be found through Google search for making soap. Some include boric acid, sodium carbonate, aromatic oils, added heat, and so forth, along with water, fat, and alkali. Be warned that sodium and potassium hydroxide are caustics which can attack skin, aluminum pans, et cetera. Lye, or sodium hydroxide, is well known as a drain cleaner, and can cause burns, even death, if used carelessly. Simply pouring lye and liquid fat together can make a smelly, hot mess, not yet a usable soap.

Does the ability of soap to emulsify fats make it a dietary supplement to reduce fat absorption? I don't think so. Even if it did work, I can't see myself eating enough soap to deal with fatty food consumption. Soap solution would probably act as a very powerful laxative, because it can be used for enemas.

Thus, I conclude that "Fat Magnets" are just another magic trick that does not work. I add them to the following list.

"Fat Burners": Anyone who has read my books or articles on health knows that the body's "FBs" are "FIBs". Therefore, magic pills, foods, food combinations to "turn up your fat burners" are like any other magic, just tricks.

"Fat Blocker" / "Starch Blocker": I have yet to read of any dietary supplement for blocking absorption of starches or fats which (1) works, and (2) does so without severe health risks.

As described in my "Easy Health Diet", the best way for reducing fat in the body is to not eat much fat (or other concentrated calories). Prevention is far more powerful than cure. There are plenty of foods low in fat, sugar, and alcohol, to fill up on.

AN OBSERVATION: crushed shellfish shells ARE a good source for calcium, but not the most readily absorbed form. Farmers feed it to chickens to provide calcium while also providing grit for the birds' food grinding process in the gizzard. Egg layers need a lot of calcium for the shells.

** Diet with FACTS, not MYTHS. **
About the author:

Dr. Donald A. Miller is author of "Easy Health Diet" http://easyhealthdiet.com/diet.htm/,"Easy Exercise All Ages" http://easyhealthdiet.com/eeaa.htm/,and numerous free articles on health http://easyhealthdiet.com/articles/.
Seven of ten deaths are caused by preventable diseases.


Donald A. Miller, Ph.D.